Who would have thought that summer school can be fun? Even more, that it can be the best summer of your educational career, and that it will provide you with stories of foreign lands, strange characters, mysterious languages, lifelong friendships, good deeds, and other hidden treasures. Whether you wish to swim with sharks in South Africa, roll your r’s in Spain, or become someone’s hero in Vietnam, there are high school summer programs abroad just for you. Even if it doesn’t give a certificate or transcript credit, the meaningful investment of your time will be worth more than any community college class or babysitting gig back home.
Why Travel Abroad in the Summer
High school summer programs will allow you to get out of your local bubble for a few weeks, and fill your head with something other than the latest fashion trends, current TV series, or boy-girl drama. Instead, grasp the opportunity to put yourself in perspective with the rest of the world and see that there is much, much more to life than just perfect report cards and locker combinations.
With a high school summer program abroad, your maturity, sense of independence, and critical thinking skills will evolve more than most people’s do in their entire high school experience. Coming in contact with another culture in a foreign place opens your eyes to new ways of living, which, in turn, teaches you flexibility, adaptation, and responsibility (are your parents convinced yet?). Furthermore, spending even a couple of weeks in France or Spain is going to boost you up to that advanced language class in an eye blink. The younger you are, the easier it is to learn a language, so play the “language immersion” card now, rather than in college. Instead of grammar lessons on blackboards, move in with a host family and make new pengyou that will become your BFF’s even back home.
If you’re not hooked yet, consider this: you will be lightyears ahead of your classmates on college applications. That’s right! You took initiative and jumped on the bandwagon before it became the “cool” thing to do in college. In addition to being a big bullet point on college apps, a summer abroad can help you find what you are truly interested in studying, or maybe even help you find your dream university abroad!
If you got lost at your big, scary high school the first week of class, then the idea of picking somewhere in the world to spend a summer abroad is probably a bit daunting. But, have no fear. Just like elective choices first felt overwhelming, you will soon realize that picking a location is a great exercise of personal freedom that is to your advantage.
Western Europe. For greater levels of comfort and familiarity (but with enough room for culture shock, no worries!), look for a high school summer program in countries like France, Spain, or England. There’s probably good reason that most of the world is flocking to this trio of tourism and educational tour giants, so you’ll be in good company amidst well-reviewed programs. That’s not to say that there’s no share of eye-opening moments though; try standing next to the Eiffel Tower, in the Alhambra, or by Big Ben and not feel amazed!
Oceania. Both Australia and New Zealand are straight out of a dusty novel or epic movie, ready to entice with surreal landscapes and constantly-happy people. For surfers, undercover ranchers, and future professional photographers, this part of the world offers plenty of opportunities for adventure and scenic snapshots. If the plane ticket there isn’t an issue, nothing will hold you back.
Central America. Financially cheaper, but culturally no less rich, Central America is buzzing with environmental, volunteering, adventuring, and linguistic opportunities to stimulate even the laziest student. Whether it’s jungle tours and white beaches in Costa Rica or isolated communities and Mayan ruins in Guatemala, there’s much more than fresh tropical fruits and cute monkeys here.
High School Summer Programs Abroad
Like your favorite pair of Converse sneakers, your high school summer program should fit you well and feel right. As if picking location wasn’t enough, now you get to decide if it’s your tongue or green thumb that you would like to exercise.
For those tough kids that want an additional thrill to international travel, consider a high school adventure program. Instead of volunteering with dogs at your local shelter or picking up trash at the neighborhood park, save turtles with a conservation project in Costa Rica or zip-line through jungles while learning about reforestation in Brazil.
For the linguistically-inclined, try a language immersion program. Adopt a new family with a homestay option, and come back with another language under your belt. Partake in a few siestas in Spain, host some rad fêtes in France, or expand pasta vocabulary in Italy as you make languages a lot more exciting than just memorizing verb charts.
Students that are particularly interested in looking like awesome people on their college apps (or just have a big heart) might consider a volunteer program. Whether it’s construction projects in Guatemala or playing with children in Thai orphanages, there are many life-changing opportunities beyond your city’s soup kitchens or library shelves.
Benefits & Challenges
Unless you grew up a travel whiz, you will come in contact with languages, lifestyles, and labels that will seem completely out of this world. This dose of culture shock might seem completely overwhelming and might make you question everything you grew up believing; this is great. Opening yourself to new feelings and traditions shapes you into a compassionate global citizen capable of tackling anything.
Most importantly though, a high school summer program can open doors to universes you didn’t even know existed. Not only will you be forced to grow up sooner (if you were shy before, go and try to buy some postage stamps from a bar in Italy and all of your domestic insecurities will fade), but you will come in touch with people, places, and perspectives that will have a lasting impression on your future decisions. Confidence will help find new solutions to problems, whether they be educational, international, or personal.
The amount of personal growth and sparkly memories seem almost unproportional to the brief days you will spend abroad. Breathe deep and fill every second with meaning. Whether you are off volunteering, studying, acquiring a language, or adventuring abroad, make this summer one that will stick out in your high school yearbooks.